Department 'self-assessment' gives Westbury prison site drilling tick of approval
By Adam Holmes
16 October 2020
Core investigation drilling at the proposed prison site at Brushy Rivulet will go ahead on Monday after the federal Environment Department was satisfied with the Tasmanian Justice Department's "self-assessment" of environmental risks.
Drilling of the eight holes for soil and rock testing was scheduled to start last Monday, but was delayed after "a referral from a third party" to the Commonwealth about how federal environment laws would apply to the drilling.
Concerns mainly centred on the impact of the drilling during wedge-tailed eagle breeding season, with a nest on a neighbouring property.
Since then, the Justice Department has carried out "additional reviews and assessments" using an "independent environmental consultant" to determine that there would not be a significant impact. In a statement, the federal Environment Department stated it accepted this.
"The department has discussed the proposed geotechnical investigations at Brushy Rivulet with the Tasmanian Department of Justice to ensure that they are aware of their obligations under the EPBC Act," the statement reads. "The Tasmanian Department of Justice has completed a self-assessment of potential impacts on matters protected under the EPBC Act from the proposed drilling and has concluded that a significant impact is not likely." The federal Environment Department would have been required to assess the drilling works if they were determined "to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance", however this was not deemed the case.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department said that the Commonwealth had "no further questions regarding this work".
Prison opponents gathered at the site last Monday to protest the drilling, only to find that no machinery arrived.
Greens environment spokesperson Rosalie Woodruff questioned how Tasmania's environment minister Roger Jaensch could allow the drilling to occur during eagle breeding season.
"There are fewer than 1000 eagles in Tasmania. The Gutwein Government should be doing everything within its power to prevent them heading to extinction - but they are doing the opposite," she said.
"Minister Jaensch appears to have abandoned his responsibility for protecting this beautiful endangered species."
The drilling is scheduled to last for two weeks.